Most people who visit Meteora do so for a day, joining a tour that ticks off a few of the monasteries in one go. And that’s great for those who only have a little time to spend exploring Greece! How incredible that we live in a time when we can visit something so monumental without spending weeks getting here.
But if you do have more time to experience Meteora, I recommend you do it on foot. It’ll take you a minimum of three days, but it’s best to spend a week. This way, you’ll also have time to rest and just take in the scenery and the small-town charm of Kastraki or Kalambaka.
The three hikes I’ve listed will take you to most of the Meteora Monasteries. They also take you through the truly incredible nature around the monasteries – the verdant hills and massive, striking rock monoliths that makes Meteora so special.
Note: We visited Meteora a week before the monasteries opened to the public, so this post is about our experience of the hikes, not the monasteries themselves.
Route A: Between Kastraki and Kalambaka
This is the shortest and easiest of the hikes. It’s also not so much a Meteora hike as a Kastraki one, the town right next to the monoliths. So if you’re only looking for hikes up to the monasteries, skip on to the next one!
The hike up takes you up through Kastraki, passing the Agios Giorgios Mantilas church on the left. Once you’re through the town, you reach a small trail. We were amazed by this narrow path up the hill. It was so lushly green, with so many bugs going about their day around us, darting past and marching onwards around our feet. I know people can be creeped out by bugs, but they’re the best sign of a thriving ecosystem, and this is their space. Creepers grow over most of the trees, so huge and impressive that we mistook many of their thick coils for branches for an hour.
The path never gets too difficult, and after about 20 minutes on-trail we emerged on the shoulder between monoliths. From here you can make your way onto a number of other paths under the trees. But for us, the sun was soon setting and we were pretty tired. So we scrambled onto the nearest giant rock and lay stretched out on it for a while like sun-bathing lizards.
It’s wonderfully peaceful up there, with a view over the rocks and the far-stretching landscape. A while after the sun had dipped past a monolith, we slowly peeled ourselves off the rock, scrambled down again, and ambled pleasantly down the trail again, admiring anew the bird calls and the hum of insects, and the relentless greenness of that beautiful wooded path.
Route B: Monastery of Varlaam from Kastraki
This is a view of Varlaam taken from Route C – we left the cameras behind on this our Route B hike
This hike I recommend doing at sunset – particularly if you’ve already visited the monastery at the end, and just want to enjoy the hike itself. With the magic of golden hour going up, and pink clouds behind the monoliths and monasteries at the top (and going down – it’s a long sunset), the natural splendour is just so enchanting.
We struck out about 1:30 hours before sunset from Kastraki. Turning left before the town’s central church, we followed a (comparatively) wide road that soon became a rocky path. This takes you to the start of the official (unmarked) trail.
A narrower, steeper path than route A, this one is even more incredible. Stone steps that look like they were likely laid hundreds of years ago, gnarled ancient trees, and leafy canopies above made us feel like we were in a magical wonderland – or a very sacred, historic space (and it is!).
As you get closer to the top of the trail, and your destination monastery, the trees start to lighten. For us, this was right at golden hour, and we got to move between trees filtering through gold light, and a far-stretching view of distant monasteries, rocks and caves. It’s fantastically beautiful.
Route C: Holy Trinity Monastery & Onwards
This route takes you to most of the Meteora Monasteries and is just gorgeous. If you’re staying in Kalambaka, to reach the start of the trail you just have to walk to the top-right point of the town. It can be seen from almost anywhere in Kalambaka!
We were staying in Kastraki, so we had to reach Kalambaka first. It’s an easy walk – you just turn right on the village’s main road and follow it all the way to Kalambaka, where you then follow the same directions as above. We, however, started the walk at about 11 pm during a heatwave, so by the time we reached the beginning of the actual hike, we were already feeling it.
Hiking up to the Holy Trinity Monastery
The hike itself is absolutely lovely. You start at the top of the town, and soon you’re passing the great monolithic rocks, so strange to see stretching away from up close. We visited in Spring, and there were such beautiful flowers blooming, everything so richly green.
We quickly felt our recently lowered levels of fitness after the month spent in Athens. The stairs don’t feel steep, but they’re taking you rather high up, so we (I) had to pause and wheeze quite often. But pilgrimages aren’t supposed to be easy! And at no point does it stop feeling worth it, because even while you’re wheezing, the view all around you is spectacular.
Can you see the narrow stairs carved into the rock? Fortunately, these days there’s a far safer staircase nearby!
After about an hour on trail, we emerged onto a wide stone path. Turning right, we were right at the base of the Holy Trinity Monastery – the first on this route. At the base of the stairs you can see narrow, rough-hewn and ancient-looking stairs leading to the right. You definitely won’t want to go that way, and it’s very much closed off! But it’s incredible to see. And you can turn up the real stairs, and visit the Monastery.
Unfortunately, we again couldn’t go inside. What we did get to see was one monk throwing water over the side of the Monastery complex walls from a bright red bucket, and another sweeping. Which was a beautiful little look into the everyday life of the monks.
From Holy Trinity Monastery we turned right and walked up the wide stone path. This path is the one most visitors will use to reach the monastery, no uphill trekking needed (except a good few stairs).
But by the time we turned up the trail, we felt pretty wiped. I was deeply regretting the tights I’d worn because I thought shorts would be too disrespectful if we did happen to be allowed in (a long skirt is required for entrance and I had one prepped in our bag, but I didn’t want to start out with shorts – it was a mistake).
But we trekked on! You soon come up to a proper road, and the only way to reach the other monasteries without tackling their individual hiking trails from the beginning is on this road. So it was a bit sun-exposed, but walking along soon brought us to the lookout point.
From here, you can see most of the monasteries sitting atop their rocky perches. Along with a panoramic view of the Greek landscape stretching off into the distance. Despite the heat, we could see snow on the mountains. It was just beautiful.
Hiking on past the Monastery of Roussanou
From the lookout point you can just follow the same broad street onwards to the monasteries in your sightline. Rousanou is the first one you come across – it took us about fifteen minutes to reach it. By this time we’d split our little bit of chocolate for a sugar boost in the heat, our ankles were aching, and we were feeling constantly blown away by the environment.
A small path leads off from the road to the comparatively small Roussanou Monastery. Established in the 14th century, this monastery has a lower elevation than the others, so it’s the most accessible. And in fact, in 1988 it actually became Meteora’s only convent.
When we passed under the Rousanou rock we found a basket and pulley leading up to the convent, where supplies get regularly pulled up! Now, that may not be a very exciting detail, but it’s a childhood dream of mine to get my food delivered to me by basket.
The Great Meteoron Holy Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Saviour
The road snakes past Rousanou and on for a while before you come to a fork. If you turn right, it continues on towards The Great Meteoron Holy Monastery. The largest and oldest monastery complex in the area, it’s founding in the 14th century by Saint Athanasios was the beginning of organised monasticism here in Meteora!
It will take you a fair while walking along the twisting road to reach it though. We, unfortunately, had all but run out of water by this point and were starting to see a threat of sunstroke if we kept up the walk past another hour (wear a hat). It’s a long walk, and one you should be prepared for before you set out on the journey.
Concluding the trail
So, rather than taking the right, we took the left. It, too, was long and snaking, and the sun sat right above us, ensuring that very little shade fell on the road. But we marched on, enjoying our surroundings so much that the pinkening of my skin (Glenn’s skin is too darn Mediterranean to ever be under much threat) and our small twinges of sunstroke fear really didn’t matter much. We were walking through some of the most truly awesome vistas we’ve ever seen, and a touch of personal discomfort can’t compete with that brain space.
Finally, we reached the start of the trail up to Varlaam, and turned the other way (left), back onto the path that takes you back to town, and into some much-needed shade. Right when we were down to our last sip of water!
So, those are our experiences hiking Meteora! There are a few more trails leading up to the various monasteries, but these are the paths our kind local Airbnb host told us about, and the ones we managed to tick off with a day of rest between each walk.
Visiting Meteora from Athens was a really incredible experience, and one I cannot recommend more! If you’ve hiked to the Meteora monasteries before and have a path you loved, let me know!